School as a Fairy Tale

So for those of you who have seen me over the past few weeks, you know that I’ve been pretty excited. Not only about the year that we’ve just begun, but about the journey that we’ve embarked on as a school that will span the next 4 to 5 years. With our new strategic plan, our new mission and vision, our new commitment to building community and relationships, and our new focus on sustainable change, I cannot keep the Language Arts teacher inside of me from bubbling up and relating this incredible opportunity that we all have to a fairy tale. I’m a very optimistic and idealistic person by nature as most of you are getting to know, and I tend to be a sucker for happy endings, so it’s not hard for me to see the beginning of this journey as a wonderful gift. I’ve spoken about this “gift” at our recent faculty meetings when I talked about how fortunate we all are to have arrived at this point in Academia Cotopaxi’s history, with the chance to affect meaningful and purposeful change for our students and community. In my experience, it’s pretty rare for a group of passionate and like minded educators to be presented with an opportunity like this, and after the excitement, the palpable positive energy, and the success of our first week, I truly believe that our own little fairly tale is starting to take shape. Let’s think about the elements of a traditional fairy tale for a minute so I can try and make my point…

As you know, with all good fairy tales there tend to be a few unmistakable characteristics and several key elements which give them their endearing qualities, and inevitably bring the stories to life. Here’s a quick list from my own elementary school past (as a teacher and as a student), which will probably bring you all back to when you were either watching Disney on a Sunday night with your family, or sitting crisscross applesauce in front of your third or fourth grade teacher when you were a kid…

  • Once upon a time…Happily ever after
  • A noble journey or quest
  • Royalty
  • Magic and Enchantments
  • Good versus Evil
  • Moral Lessons
  • Incredibly difficult tasks requiring tremendous effort
  • Human weaknesses explored (pride, laziness, selfishness)
  • Human strengths glorified (kindness, patience, empathy, generosity, perseverance)

If you take some time to read that list again, I bet you’ll begin to see where I’m coming from, and it won’t take much effort to see the connection that I’m trying to make. Whether you’ve taken the time to recognize it or not, our “once upon a time” has already begun here at AC, and our noble journey/quest is already underway. In our story, the princes and princesses are our amazing and beautiful students, and the magic is the  passion, the attitude, the mindset, and the commitment that we as educators and people are bringing with us to school everyday. We’ll use our expertise, our extensive knowledge, and our kindness to cast a spell over our kids which will inspire a love of learning, and our character education program, which will be developed shortly, will provide our kids with a moral compass that will resonate and burn bright throughout their lives. The evil that we will surely encounter will be the usual obstacles that prohibit sustainable change…things like close-mindedness, a lack of educational courage, isolation, a lack of teacher and administrative continuity, and a failure to embrace our own leadership potential. The road will be long and tremendously difficult, and littered with seemingly impossible tasks, but that’s where our strengths as a tribe will come in…and we will overcome.

Like I said before, I’m a sucker for happy endings, and I honestly feel that our little fairy tale will come true if we keep our focus. It’s just the beginning I know, and I’m well aware that the tough stuff still lies ahead, but if I can take some inspiration from what I’ve seen from all of you over the last couple of weeks, we have what it takes as a team to bring our fairy tale to life. Enjoy the journey everyone, and I challenge you to be those knights in shining amour for our students and our community. Thank you for such an amazing start to the year, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week……

Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. – Theodore Roosevelt

 Fairy Tale Endings – Top 10 Disney J

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y62fUff1J2s

 TED Talk – Ron Gutman (The Hidden Power of Smiling)

http://www.ted.com/playlists/4/what_makes_us_happy

 Articles – Meaning and Purpose

http://blogs.hbr.org/2011/03/challenging-our-deeply-held-as/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gabrielle-bernstein/career-advice_b_1533108.html

http://www.goal-setting-guide.com/long-term-goals/

http://www.personal.psu.edu/wxh139/Fullan.htm

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec06/vol64/num04/How-Do-You-Change-School-Culture%C2%A2.aspx

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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